Kevin Toland stepped down as chief executive of Aryzta on Thursday in a shake-up of management at the embattled baked goods company.
Shareholders have been agitating for an overhaul of the Swiss-Irish owner of Cuisine de France and other baked goods brands, which recently reported that net debt stood at €1 billion on July 31st, the end of its financial year.
Aryzta said on Thursday that Mr Toland would “cease his role as chief executive officer effective today” and announced several other changes at the top of the group.
His departure follows that of former chairman Gary McGann, another Irish man, who left this autumn and was replaced by Urs Jordi following pressure from investors.
Mr Jordi steps in as interim chief executive pending the appointment of a permanent replacement for Mr Toland. Board member Luisa Delgado takes over as lead independent director.
Jonathan Solesbury joins as interim chief financial officer. He will take over from Frédéric Pflanz, whom Aryzta has already confirmed will leave the group on November 30th. Mr Pflanz became chief financial officer in autumn 2017, around the same time that Mr Toland took the helm.
Mr Solesbury recently retired as chief financial officer at C&C, the Irish drinks business that makes Bulmers cider. Before that he was group head of finance at brewer SABMiller, which he joined after serving in similar roles in Asia and Latin America.
Aryzta said Mr Solesbury had agreed to advise and support the company pending the appointment of a permanent chief financial officer. The board is searching for someone to fill that post.
Mr Jordi said Aryzta’s immediate task was to change and improve the company to retain the confidence of all stakeholders. “Our business has strong development potential,” he added.
Ms Delgado thanked Mr Toland for making “important progress” over the past three years and welcomed Mr Solesbury to his interim post.
Along with Cuisine de France, Aryzta owns the La Brea and Otis Spunkmeyer bakery groups in North America and Coup de Pates in France. It also supplies supermarkets and fast food chains.
Mr Toland was recruited by Mr McGann. He joined Aryzta from State airport group DAA, where he had also been chief executive, presiding over a period of strong growth.
Before that, he worked in senior roles for multinationals such as Coca Cola, and ran the successful US operation of food group Glanbia.
He succeeded Owen Killian, who in 2008 created Aryzta by merging Irish food business IAWS with Switzerland's Hiestand, where Mr Jordi had been chief executive.
Aryzta was already struggling with debt and was drawing fire from analysts for being unfocused when Mr Toland took over.
He made a number of senior management changes at Aryzta early on. In his first year he oversaw the placement of new shares in the group, the refinancing of its debt and agreed new credit facilities with its banks.
During his tenure Aryzta raised €400 million from selling most of its stake in French frozen foods business Picard, its former La Rousse Foods operation in Ireland, two Cloverhill facilities in the US and a 50 per cent stake in a UK flatbread business.
However, Aryzta's problems have persisted. In October talks on a sale to US hedge fund Elliott Management broke down.
Since then it has hired investment banks Houlihan Lokey and Alantra to advise it on selling "non-core" business to make the group less complex. Observers believe parts of its North American business could be offered for sale early.